When you think of Sandy Koufax cards, which one comes to mind?
Most hobbyists would likely quickly envision his 1955 Topps rookie card. After all, that issue is iconic and one of the most valuable baseball cards in the entire hobby.
As a diehard Koufax collector, though, I tend to really enjoy some of his lesser-known cards. They’re harder to find. And they’re more challenging to find in high grade. So, for me, that gives them a boost in appeal.
Take his 1959-1961 Morrell Meats issues, for example. These cards are fairly rare–specifically the 1959.
Part of a three-year run as promotional cards released by the Morrell Meats company they were generally only available in the Southern California area. They were also served exclusively at Dodgers games at the Coliseum in during their pre-Chavez Ravine days.
Along with his Bell Brand Potato Chip cards (which I’ll write about separately in the future), they’re arguably his most recognizable regional issues.
Condition-sensitive doesn’t begin to describe these cards. If the full-color, borderless photos on the front weren’t fragile enough, the fact that the cards were packaged with hot dogs and sausage left them even more vulnerable to wear and tear.
Let’s take a look at each one and see what makes them different from each other:
1959 Morrell Meats Sandy Koufax
The 1959 Morrell Meats series included 12 players in total with Koufax being the most important card in the set (the same can be said for the ’60 and ’61 issues). Koufax is pictured in his legendary #32 uniform posing as if he’s delivering another one of his famously terrifying fastballs. At the time, though, his fastball wasn’t exactly as terrifying as it was known for seeing as how he only struck out 173 that season and really didn’t become dominant until the 1961 season. As you’ll see in a bit, the photo used in the 1959 issue is the same as the 1961 issue, so the back is the easiest way to tell the difference between the two. The 1959 back doesn’t contain any statistics at all. It does, however, give a clue as to which products the cards came with:
- Cheesefurters (what’s a cheesefurter?)
- Polish Sausages
1960 Morrell Meats Sandy Koufax
Another 12-card set, the 1960 Morell Meats cards were identical in size to the 1959 set, each measuring 2-1/2″ by 3-1/2″. But, as you can see, the photo of Koufax was different than the year before. A nice full-color image of Koufax is shown right where opposing hitters liked to see him: smiling and nowhere near a pitcher’s mound. Morrell included his statistics on the reverse, below his team, his name and personal information (height, weight, etc.). A 1960 Morrell Meats Koufax graded in PSA 9 mint condition sold for over $30k in 2007. An incredible price. Who knows what it would sell for today?
1961 Morrell Meats Sandy Koufax
As mentioned previously, Morrell went with the same photo on its 1961 issue as it had used on the 1959 card. Again, the back is the key to telling the difference between the 1959 and 1961 issues. The layout of the 1961 back is almost identical to that of the 1960 issue except:
- his personal information is missing
- the coloration is different
- there is a symbol instead of the word “Japan” in the corner
- and 1959 World Series stats are included
So just how rare are all three of these cards? This should give you some perspective:
As of this writing, according to PSA’s pop report, the following number of each card are currently in the grading company’s population:
- 1959: 9 copies (yes, only nine)
- 1960: 79 copies
- 1961: 93 copies
By comparison, PSA has graded 5,436 of his 1955 Topps rookie cards.
So, obviously Morrell Meats cards don’t pop up too often. And when they do, you better jump on them. Take my word for it.
I own both his 1960 and 1961 Morrell issues in PSA 8 condition. But the 1959 issue continues to elude me…
Earlier this year, Heritage Auctions auctioned off a copy of the 1959 Morrell Meats Koufax in PSA 5 condition…the highest grade currently in their population. So this was big news in the Koufax collecting community.
Too bad I found out about the auction in July. I am still kicking myself for not paying closer attention to each auction house’s schedules. (Side note: if you don’t know about Auction Report, their website can solve this problem for you. They do a great job at listing out most every major auction house’s schedules so you don’t make the same mistake I did and have a card you need slip by you).
Ugh…I’m still kicking myself over missing out on that ’59 Morrell Meats Koufax auction. I’ve been searching for this card for years. It ended up selling for $4,063 with buyer’s premium, though, so I guess I don’t feel too bad. There is no chance I would’ve been able to go that high.
Oh well, the search continues. Which is one of the best parts about this hobby in my opinion.